Fully autonomous driving without a driver is “very close” to become reality according to Elon Musk, founder of Tesla.
Musk addressed the World Artificial Conference on Thursday saying he is confident Tesla will have the basics ready “before the end of the year.”
The optimistic announcement comes as Tesla earlier in the month overtook Toyota as the world’s most valued carmaker, with a market value nearing $300bn, an increase of 260% already only this year.
Currently Tesla’s autopilot function is considered to be an ‘advanced driving aid’ rather, where autonomous driving is only allowed on restricted roads like certain highways and with the driver holding his hands on the steering wheel and his eyes on the road at any time to intervene.
According to Musk the next step is merely a question of software and tackling a long list of ‘smaller’ problems that occur on the road to reach complete self-driving. The current hardware in the Tesla cars – combing various cameras, ultrasonic sensors, GPS, and radar with accurate maps and software – is sufficient, Musk says.
Artificial Intelligence is key
Musk announced that the company is ‘very close’ to start implement so called Level 5 autonomous driving, presumably with Tesla’s optional Full Self Driving (FSD) feature.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a significant role and will require a lot of computing power, Musk told in the video conference adding that Tesla developed its own chips for that. Otherwise, it would require a trunk full of computer hardware and cooling equipment to crunch the data and consume too much energy.
According to Musk, there are no big hurdles to take anymore, but there is a ‘long tail of problems’ to be addressed. A significant advantage is that Tesla owners around the world have gathered massive data while driving more than a billion miles on Autopilot.
However, even if this will be practically feasible, there could still take a long time until we see autonomous driving on the roads worldwide, New Mobility reports, as the UN just regulated rules for the technology, allowing only for ‘Level-3’ autonomous driving. That’s for self-driving at low speeds, in specific ‘safe’ road and weather conditions, where the driver no longer needs to keep his eyes on the road.